Libby Stephens: Humanizing the Transition Experience

As the number of families and individuals who live outside of their passport culture(s) continues to grow, the arena of Cross-Cultural Transition Consulting is a needed and developing area of focus. Like with any subject matter, some professionals active in the work really stand out as champions in their field. Libby Stephens is one such consultant.

I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Libby for a number of Third Culture Kid Transition Seminars over the years, and we recently took the opportunity to swap interviews. You can follow this link to a short video with the two of us from this past Spring, and then keep reading what follows to listen in on a few additional questions I asked of Libby right here. Enjoy!

Josh Sandoz: Can you share with us what kinds of services you provide for the TCK and internationally mobile community?

Libby Stephens: Josh, my goal is to be able to help anyone in the globally mobile community understand and humanize their transition experience. This includes individuals, schools and businesses. For example, I regularly visit international schools around the world working with departing students and conducting in-service programs for their faculty and staff. Each summer I am involved in two weeks of orientation for teachers who are new to living internationally and working in international schools. And of course, one of my favorite assignments is teaching alongside you Josh as we work with TCKs who have returned to the US for university or high school! The rest of my year is pretty much a non-stop research project around all aspects of transition and TCKs so that I ensure I am relevant the rest of the year.

JS: How did you become so passionate about TCKs and matters concerning transition?

LS: I grew up highly mobile. Though I never left the US until I was 17, I always knew what it was like to be the new kid in school. Along with that, my parents often hosted international students and TCKs, though we never knew there was a name for them, in our home. I loved hearing their “and then we went to” stories and often felt some of the same sadness when they talked about missing all the places where they had lived.

Shortly after my university studies in Behavioral Science and Counseling, I began a job at a boarding school in Europe. And that was it. I was hooked. TCKs became my passion. I met David Pollock in my second year there and began working with him at Transition Seminars every summer. Even now, after returning to the US in 2002, I look forward to working with TCKs every summer as they begin life in the US.

JS: Are there any exciting projects or initiatives you have been involved with recently or have coming around the bend?

LS: This past Spring I was involved in a three day Think Tank on Third Culture Kids. The small group of about 12 people began thinking through the TCK Profile and the issues TCKs face in the 21st century. I am looking forward to refining some of our thoughts and findings. This of course means more research needs to be done.

Another exciting project that I have the honor to be a part of is The Transition Institute. This initiative is still on the drawing board but I have great hopes that along with author Debra Rader (New Kid in School) and Shabbi Luthra of the American School of Bombay we will conduct transition and TCK training for educators. We are planning this for the summer of 2012 in Tuscany.

JS: If a group or organization would like to hire you as a speaker or consultant, how can they be in touch?

LS: Josh, it is my passion to come alongside schools, businesses, governments, families and individuals on issues surrounding transition, the Third Culture Kid and cultural adjustment. Anyone who is interested can go to my website,, check my calendar for availability and book me through a simple form there.

JS: Libby, thanks so much for sharing some thoughts with us here today. As we finish up, I wanted to ask, what makes you such a strong advocate of the International Therapist Directory?

LS: I am a strong advocate of the International Therapist Directory. It is important to mention that people can get help with some of their cross-cultural adjustment issues, TCK issues, and family adjustment issues without having to return to their passport country. Many times the struggles that are faced in the first year can be dealt with quickly if they just have someone to talk to. For far too long, parents have felt helpless when trying to find help for their families. Marriages have suffered as couples have tried to successfully live internationally. I am so very glad you had the vision to put the International Therapist Directory together. What a gift for the international community!

JS: Thanks Libby! Those are kind and thoughtful words. All the best in your work!